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Exports and empty containers break Long Beach TEU record

Long Beach breaks TEU record
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The Port of Long Beach broke its annual record in 2020 and processed 8.1 million TEU despite the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing trade war with China.

The Port’s traffic increased year-on-year (YoY) 6.3% from 2019 and this was driven largely by imports, which rose by 6.3%, and exports of empty containers, which rose by 9.9%.

Loaded exports only increased by 0.2%. In total, the Port exceeded the previous annual record in 2018 by 22,292 TEU.

Mario Cordero, Executive Director, Port of Long Beach, said, “I want to thank our frontline workers on the docks who kept cargo moving during this unprecedented moment in history, ensuring the safe, secure and timely delivery of vital medical equipment and consumer goods.

“We have all endured incredible hardships with COVID-19, but I am looking forward to 2021 as a time of economic recovery and a renewed focus on our industry partners, infrastructure projects and community stakeholders.”

Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna, also commented, “This record demonstrates the effort of our dockworkers and the Port’s determination to collaborate with our partners to overcome the devastating economic challenges presented by COVID-19 and the trade war with China.

“We look forward to continuing to work toward economic recovery along with our stakeholders.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic drove down consumer demand for goods during the first half of 2020, leading to a 6.9% decline in cargo compared to the same period a year earlier.

The San Pedro Bay ports complex – Long Beach and LA combined – had 104 cancelled sailings in the first half of 2020, 37 of which were destined for Long Beach. That was up from 41 cancelled sailings for both ports in the first half of 2019.

It was a different story for the second half of 2020, when preliminary estimates show that the Port had 104 unscheduled container ship calls which made up for voyages cancelled earlier in the year, more than quadrupling the unscheduled sailings reported during the same period in 2019.

Demand rose for medical equipment, along with home improvement items, exercise equipment and office furniture as consumers endured shelter-in-place orders and worked from home during the COVID-19 epidemic. The surge in cargo continued through the final months of 2020 as retailers stocked their shelves for the holiday shopping season.

Along with capping 2020 as its all-time busiest year, the Port accomplished two additional records in December by achieving the busiest month and the most active quarter in its 110-year history.

The Port processed 2,406,010 TEU from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, a 23% increase from the fourth quarter of 2019. It also topped the previous record set during the third quarter of 2020 by 131,740 TEU.

Trade was up 22.6% in December compared to the same period in 2019. Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 815,885 cargo container units in December and broke the “best month” record set in October 2020 by 9,282 TEUs.

Imports grew 25.6% last month to 406,072 TEU compared to December 2019 and exports increased 5.6% to 132,374 TEU. Empty containers headed back overseas jumped 26.3% to 263,852 TEU.

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